2 Jan 2009

Deleuze, One Manifesto Less (Un manifeste de moins), §2 "The Theater and Its Minorities" (Le théâtre et ses minorités)

Corry Shores
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Un manifeste de moins
One Manifesto Less

§2 Le théâtre et ses minorités

The Theater and Its Minorities

Bene is interested in middles, not beginnings or ends.

The interesting thing is the middle, what happens on the way. It is not by chance that the greatest speed is at the halfway point.


Ce qui est intéressant, ce n’est jamais la manière dont quelqu’un commence ou finit. L’intéressant, c’est le milieu, ce qui se passe au milieu.


Past and future matter little.

What counts, on the contrary, is the becoming: becoming-revolutionary, and not the future or the past of the revolution. ... It is in the middle where one finds the becoming, the movement, the velocity, the vortex. The middle is not the mean, but on the contrary an excess. It is by the middle that things push.


Ce qui compte au contraire, c’est le devenir : devenir- révolutionnaire, et pas l’avenir ou le passé de la révolution. ... C’est au milieu qu’il a le devenir, le mouvement, la vitesse, le tourbillon. Le milieu n’est pas une moyenne, mais au contraire un excès. C’est par le milieu que les choses poussent.


Being in the middle does not mean being in one’s era or being historical. Rather, the middle is

that by which the most diverse times communicate. It is neither the historical nor the eternal, but the untimely. A minor author is just that: without future or past, she has only a becoming, a middle, by which she communicates with other times, other spaces.


ce par quoi les temps les plus différents communiquent. Ce n’est ni l’historique ni l’éternel, mais l’intempestif. Et c’est justement cela, un auteur mineur : sans avenir ni passé, il n’a qu’un devenir, un milieu, par lequel il communique avec d’autres temps, d’autres espaces.


Bene treats the major Shakespeare as minor.

Forcing minor cultures to value more dominant ones surgically grafts major cultures “in their backs to normalize them.” But by like surgery, one can invert the motion, and thereby minorize so to “extricate becomings from history, lives from culture, thoughts from doctrine, grace or disgrace from dogma.” (97c/208c) [Citations give French version first, then the English translation.] And it is by disgrace or deformity that we become minor (98b/209a).

Languages can be major even if their international reach is limited. If a language is homogenized through standardization, it is major; hence French and English are major. (98c/209b)

But theatre dies when using major languages; for, the language of the play would be no different than the language of every day life.

Because major languages enforce homogeneity, they are “languages of power” (langues de pouvoir) (100a/209cd). We oppose them with minor languages, like Italian. And,

one must define the minor language as languages with continuous variability – whichever dimension one is considering: phonological, syntactic, semantic, or even stylistic.


on doit définir les langues mineures comme des langues à variabilité continuequelle que soit la dimension considérée, phonologique, syntaxique, sémantique ou même stylistique.


But even though a minor language is minimally structured, it is not

a porridge, a mixture of patois, since it finds its rules in the construction of a continuum. In effect, continuous variation applies to all the components, vocal and linguistic, in a kind of generalized chromaticism.


une bouillie, un mélange de patois, puisqu’elle trouve ses règles dans la construction d’un continuum. En effet, la variation continue s’appliquera à toutes les composantes sonores et linguistiques, dans une sorte de chromatisme généralisé.


Because such a minor use of language creates a spectacle of sorts, minor language is theatrical (100c/209d).

The reason English and American have become so internationally dominant is because they have been “worked on to the greatest extent from within by the minorities that use them” (100d/210a).

there is no imperial language that is not tunneled through, dragged along by these inherent and continuous lines of variation, by these minor uses.


il n’y a pas de langue impériale qui ne soit creusée, entraînée par ces lignes de variation inhérente et continue, c’est-à-dire par ces usages mineurs.


We see this in Black English and in Kafka’s German. Minor and major languages are not different languages, but different uses of the same language. (101c/210b)

Linguists study languages, no matter how unstructured, by extracting a homogeneous subsystem from their heterogeneities (for example, Chomsky). This approach treats language’s variations as extrinsic to the system. But the very fact that language presupposes the rightfulness of its consistency implies that language is a condition of power and a marker of power. A few linguists (namely Labov) have found within major languages “lines of variation” governed by alternate rules. (101-102/210c) Homogeneous language systems are always “worked on by immanent, continuous, and regulated variation.”

The continuous variability is not to be explained by a bilingualism, nor by a mixture of dialects, but by the creative property most inherent in the language when it is in the grips of a minor use. And, in a certain way, this is the “theater” of the language.


La variabilité continue ne s’explique pas par un bilinguisme, ni par un mélange de dialectes, mais par la propriété créatrice la plus inhérente à la langue en tant qu’elle est prise dans un usage mineur. Et, d’une certaine façon, c’est le « théâtre » de la langue.


Deleuze, Gilles. “One Manifesto Less.” in The Deleuze Reader. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas. Transl. Alan Orenstein. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Un manifeste de moins.” in Superpositions. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979.

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